Ann Cotten

(1982 / Ames, Iowa)

STRANGE FUGUE (PANIC) - Poem by Ann Cotten

And the people came and looked on, holding their rings in their fingers.
How they talked! "Where would the lie be, then?" and again,
"Where would be the lie?" For unwittingly the songs
had found the subjunctive, a present milder
than the times allowed.

More gallant
and more false were the words of the culture men.*
They are used to mastering everything with grace, covering
abominable gaps with pretty lids, adding banisters
and standing on it all, even though it slants.
And they talk then, inconspicuously, so all can see
how easy it could be.

But one is not everyone, no!
Exceptions, wildly defended, look best on those
who know how to avoid quelques choses.
They will always be the knob and not the hand.

Shareholders fanned the wounds with their light clothing.
They claim to understand things that come like giant cranes.
So we used them as gods, irregular gods
to play along the hems of the customers.

The latter, clouds in pants, sleeping hustlers,
wanked around in swarms, gushing like animals, spitting
fire when it tipped and threw them off. They mixed
fondness and fear, their love was horrible; ironic
observers observed large stains spreading over the land.

The observers tried to show something with curious saltations.
But the people just twisted their rings and twisted and twisted them.
They did not want to take that step, for as it was, they knew
their problems safely separated from their solutions,
which scared them.

And thus they lived long with heartburn and nausea,
saw the foe in their bedrooms and ignored him.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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